Bay Tree Design's EcoSchool Design®


Visit the website for Sharon Danks's exciting new book about green schoolyards!

Creative Play Environments

The play structures in most schoolyards and playgrounds around the world look very similar. Fear of liability and the mass production of play equipment have turned most of the public places children play into environments filled with standardized metal, plastic, and rubber parts. Although generally useful and enjoyable, these types of play areas seem to lack the "personality" and creativity that comes with site-specific design, and rarely reflect their neighborhood surroundings.

Some schools and parks around the world are building play environments that do not depend on mass produced parts. Such playgrounds are often whimsical and inspiring in many ways. They frequently reflect the history or culture of their surrounding communities, and fit into their natural environments to a greater degree than standardized play systems. The list below includes resources and case studies from around the world that focus on customized, creative approaches to designing play environments.

Please contact the webmaster if you know of additional resources or case studies that should be added to this page. Thanks!

Resources for Creative Play Environments

Resource Title Description
Bund der Jugendfarmen und Aktivspielplätze e.V. (BdJA) Online document: "Adventure playgrounds and city farms in Europe and what they contribute to sustainable urban development" Stuttgart, Germany
A variety of links to projects that have mazes and labyrinths in the Netherlands. Netherlands
Children's Landscape
Website with excellent content, links and photographs from a variety of projects around the world.
Oslo, Norway
The Natural Playgrounds Company This firm develops "unique playground designs using natural features and challenges to create fun, safe, and beautiful natural play and learning environments offering maximum play value for far less money. Perfect for childcare centers, "green" schools, communities, and nature centers. Applicable to new or old sites wanting something different from manufactured equipment." Concord, New Hampshire, USA
Leathers and Associates Playground design firm that specializes in including community participation in the design and construction of unique playgrounds. Ithaca, New York, USA
Resources for building play structures out of living willow whips
East Coast Gardener Online document: "How to plant a living willow fence," by Heather Sanft. Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
Henry Doubleday Research Association Online document: "Creating living willow structures - Fact sheet GG37." Coventry, England
Willow Pool Designs Business that makes and sells items made from living and dried willows, and offers courses, and online tips. "Photo Gallery" of living willow sculptures and "Growing Willow: Planting Tips" Kendal, Cumbria, England
Windrush Willow "Living willow fact sheet," Richard and Suzanne Kerwood. Devon, England
English Hurdle Online document: "The care and maintenance of living willow products." Taunton, Somerset, England

Freitag & Sohn: Weiden Art


Willow art website with over 500 pictures of fantastic living willow structures in a variety of contexts. (Website is in German but photos are easy to understand.) Germany
Living Willow Sculpture Co. "We are a small creative living willow sculpture company based in the hills of the heart of Mid Wales, specialising in both private and community based willow sculptures." Llandrindod Wells, Powys, United Kingdom


Case Studies of Creative Play Environments

School/Playground Name Project Description Location
Millennium Domes Seven examples of "Millennium Dome" living willow projects at primary schools in England, led by Rob Tily and Nick Williams of Living Willow England
Gorsemoor County Primary School Living willow maze planted in the shape of a "Stafford Knot."

Staffordshire, England
Sidlesham Primary School Living willow teepee and tunnels built in sculptural shapes.

West Sussex, England
Abenteuerspielplatz Waslala Adventure playground in Berlin, Germany (website in German with photographs) Berlin, Germany
Rabauki Abenteuerspielplatz Adventure playground in Siegen, Germany (website in German with photographs) Siegen, Germany
TreeTops 2000, Ithaca High School Treetops 2000 Project: a three-level wildlife observation tower built by high school students at Cayuga Nature Center under the direction of Leathers and Associates. Ithaca, New York, United States